ARIZONA CARDINALS

Cardinals pre-camp preview: DBs have new and old faces

Jul 12, 2019, 6:43 AM | Updated: 12:51 pm
From left to right, Cardinals CB Robert Alford, rookie DB Byron Murphy and S Budda Baker. (Getty Im...
From left to right, Cardinals CB Robert Alford, rookie DB Byron Murphy and S Budda Baker. (Getty Images)
(Getty Images)

The Arizona Cardinals report to duty on July 24 and open 2019 training camp with their first practice the following day. To preview the storylines heading into head coach Kliff Kingsbury’s first year on the job, let’s take a look at the roster by position groups.

First up are the defensive backs.


Projected starters

CB: Patrick Peterson (suspended first six games)

SS: D.J. Swearinger

FS: Budda Baker

CB: Robert Alford

Nickel: Tramaine Brock Sr. / Byron Murphy

Depth

CB: Brandon Williams, Chris Jones, Deatrick Nichols, Nate Brooks

Safety: Deionte Thompson, Josh Shaw, Rudy Ford, Jalen Thompson, Tyler Sigler, Jonathan Owens

Biggest storyline

It was always going to be about Robert Alford — well, Robert Alford next to Patrick Peterson.

Even before Peterson earned a six-game suspension for PED use, Arizona showed a commitment to ending their long-winding search for a second cornerback, signing Alford to a three-year deal that could reach a reported $24 million. Alford, who has gotten to know Peterson through former Cardinals defensive back Tyrann Mathieu, struggled last year with Atlanta, fighting through a nagging ankle injury to play in 15 games.

He recorded 11 passes defensed and 49 tackles but for the first time in his six-year career didn’t record an interception.

Alford said in April he is healthy. With Peterson out to begin the season, it’s on him to take on the role of top corner. And to perform.

If he survives decently enough through six games, the challenge arguably gets more difficult when Peterson returns.

“I’m eager at the end of the day,” Alford said. “I’m going to prepare each and every day to go out there and get it. Coaches said they needed picks each and every game and I’m looking to get that … knowing they’re not going to be throwing to Pat, they’re going to throw it the other way.”

X-factor

Rookie second-round pick Byron Murphy was viewed by some as a top-15 pick in the 2019 NFL Draft. Arizona led off the second round by selecting the Washington defensive back and piled on the school-work early in camp. The Cardinals had Murphy learn everything from corner to nickel to safety, then reduced his workload later on, allowing him to gain confidence on the field. His development is key, in any case.

“Just like a young quarterback, a young corner takes time,” Arizona defensive coordinator Vance Joseph said of Murphy. “If you don’t raise them right, they’re going to have some hard downs early and you can lose them early.

Arizona released veteran corner David Amerson this summer, putting the pressure on Murphy and veteran Tramaine Brock Sr. to produce, no matter which one is the starting corner to open the year with Peterson sidelined and which one is in the slot.

Brock, 30, has a lot to prove as well. His career was derailed by a June 2017 domestic violence charge that was eventually thrown out of court, and he’s since bounced between the Vikings and Broncos the past two years after he’d become a mainstay with the 49ers during his first seven NFL seasons (2010-16).

Under the radar

— Nobody’s talking about the Cardinals’ two starting safeties because they’re familiar faces, but it remains to be seen how the backend looks after Arizona moved on from Tre Boston and Antoine Bethea a year ago. It’s just that swaggy, hard-hitting strong safety D.J. Swearinger hasn’t played for Arizona for a few years and third-year pro Budda Baker is adding youth to free safety after moving over from nickel corner.

— The are certainly concerns about the team’s defensive back depth. At corner, there aren’t any proven players after Brock unless you consider Brandon Williams’ few games of experience a comfortable bet. At safety, who steps in if injuries hit? Fifth-round pick Deionte Thompson and NFL vet Josh Shaw might be next up. And can supplementary draft pick Jalen Thompson play catchup to put himself in the conversation just weeks after he decided to head to the NFL rather than finish his run at Washington State? He could also potentially play nickel after playing the majority of his snaps in the slot at WSU last year.

He said it

“Ideally what you would like to be able to do is you want guys to actually try to throw the ball to Patrick Peterson,” said defensive backs coach Marcus Robertson, who followed Joseph from Denver. “In my mind, I’m saying that’s what I would like to see happen. I would like to see more balls thrown to him so we can find out how good he really is. I would like to see teams try it.”

Array

Arizona Cardinals

Jordan Hicks #58 and Budda Baker #3 of the Arizona Cardinals celebrate after Hicks sacked Andy Dalt...
Wills Rice

Cardinals’ Jordan Hicks, Zach Ertz mum on impending free agency

Arizona Cardinals LB Jordan Hicks and TE Zach Ertz are both unrestricted free agents now that the offseason has officially begun.
16 hours ago
(Twitter Photo/@CardsMarkD)...
Jake Anderson

Cardinals safety Budda Baker gives health update from hospital bed

Arizona Cardinals safety Budda Baker provided an update on his health from a hospital bed via Instagram on Tuesday morning.
16 hours ago
Arizona Cardinals inside linebacker Tanner Vallejo (51) tackles Los Angeles Rams running back Cam A...
Wills Rice

Arizona Cardinals to select No. 23 overall in 2022 NFL Draft

The Arizona Cardinals will be selecting No. 23 overall in the 2022 NFL Draft after the team's 34-11 Wild Card loss to the Los Angeles Rams.
16 hours ago
Arizona Cardinals head coach Kliff Kingsbury watches from the sideline during the second half of hi...
Wills Rice

Cardinals’ Kliff Kingsbury closes season with another poor finish

Cardinals HC Kliff Kingsbury's end of the year struggles are well documented, but Monday's loss closed another abysmal finish to the season.
16 hours ago
J.J. Watt #99 and Chandler Jones #55 of the Arizona Cardinals take a knee during an injury timeout ...
Tyler Drake

Cardinals’ season a ‘massive failure’ in eyes of J.J. Watt, Kyler Murray

The once promising Cardinals season came to an unceremonious end on Monday, along with it any and all of the good feelings left from 2021.
16 hours ago
Head coach Kliff Kingsbury of the Arizona Cardinals looks on from the side line in the second quart...
Kellan Olson

Kliff Kingsbury: Struggles in 2nd half of seasons ‘definitely a priority’ to fix

Arizona Cardinals head coach Kliff Kingsbury has seen one of his football teams melt down in the second half of the season yet again.
16 hours ago
Cardinals pre-camp preview: DBs have new and old faces